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A DO-IT-YOUR-ELF GUIDE TO 'RINGS' FOLK AND ALL THEIR STRANGE HOBBITS.

Byline: Rob Lowman Entertainment Editor

In his review of the third volume of J.R.R. Tolkien's ``Lord of the Rings,'' noted author W.H. Auden wrote that ``no previous writer has, to my knowledge, created an imaginary world and a feigned history in such detail. By the time the reader has finished the trilogy ... he knows as much about Tolkien's Middle Earth (as) he knows about the actual world.''

``A lot of the charm of the reading 'Lord of the Rings' are the detailed descriptions, and we can't really get any of that in the film,'' says the film's director, Peter Jackson.

Still, the filmmakers managed to incorporate an enormous amount of detail into the movie - not to mention the fact that there are numerous characters. And over the course of filming, many of the actors grew close as they learned more and more about their characters. Many had to learn some Elvish, a language that Tolkien created. The nine members of the fellowship, in fact, all got (real) tattoos - the Elvish symbol for nine.

``Oh, those naughty Hobbits, they all promised that when we got it done that they would never tell anyone,'' laughed Ian McKellen.

So here's a little primer on Middle Earth, which includes a look at some of actors and what they said about playing their roles.

THE STORY

Nineteen Rings of Power were forged, bestowing long life and magical powers upon the wearers. But Sauron, the evil Lord of Mordor, created a Ruling Ring to bring all the other Rings under his control. During a battle against Elves and Men, the One Ring - a force so evil that even the good can't use it without being corrupted - is lost. Centuries later, the Ring has resurfaced in the hands of young Frodo Baggins, a Hobbit in the Shire. Aware of this, Sauron has dispatched ominous Black Riders to retrieve it. The only way to make sure that evil is defeated is to destroy the Ring, but this can only be done in one way and in one place, which requires a perilous journey. To complete his quest, Frodo is joined by eight others - three Hobbits (Sam, Merry, Pippin), the wizard Gandalf, the elf Legolas, the dwarf Gimli and two men, Aragorn and Boromir. They are ``The Fellowship of the Ring.'' Along the way, the group encounters numerous dangers, but its biggest battles, perhaps, are with its members' own desires to possess the Ring. As Auden noted, a fantasy book only succeeds if it ``holds up the mirror to the only nature we know, our own; in this, too, Mr. Tolkien has succeeded superbly.''

THE HOBBITS

They are gentle and close to nature. With an average height of 3'6'', the furry-footed creatures dwell deep in furnished holes on the sides of hills. They love the simple things in life: smoking pipes, eating and storytelling. They live to be around 100 years old.

FRODO BAGGINS (Elijah Wood, left): The young Hobbit Frodo is at the center of ``LOTR,'' for he is the Ring Bearer, because he is the only one who seems able to resist its evil. ``Frodo is definitely an innocent and pure soul,'' says Wood, ``but unlike other Hobbits, he has a curiosity of the outside world.''

McKellen, who plays the wizard Gandalf, says he initially believed Wood too beautiful for the part. ``Frodo is everyman,'' notes McKellen, ``so I thought it should have been somebody more obviously ordinary rather than extraordinary. Yet going around New Zealand, where they have a lot of war memorials, they are statues of pale, beautiful young men who gave their lives to save the world. And I thought, now I see who Peter has cast.''

SAM (Sean Astin), MERRY (Dominic Monaghan) and PIPPIN (Billy Boyd): Sam is Frodo's loyal friend, willing to ``face the adventure of the unknown to help him,'' as Astin notes. Merry and Pippin are willing to fight but also provide comic relief. ``There was really this strange thing that we were collectively known as the Hobbits on and off the set. It was always, 'Here's the Hobbits! Let's get the Hobbits some drinks,' '' says Boyd. ``The mood changed and lightened when the Hobbits came on the set,'' says Monaghan. ``With Hobbits, everything is always open and free and honest and when we walked on the set we were always in great moods or tried to be and we picked up people.''

BILBO BAGGINS (Ian Holm): Frodo's older cousin, who has adopted him. Bilbo is the one who brought back the Ring to the Shire.

WIZARDS

They are supremely powerful but can use that power for good or for evil.

GANDALF (Ian McKellen, left): A friend of Bilbo and Frodo. ``Gandalf is about 7,000 years old,'' says McKellen, ``but is in the shape of a man in his 70s whose bones are aching and isn't always quite up to the job at hand and gets distracted. He has nice human qualities; he likes to joke and smoke and chatter with friends. He's in touch with the earth. He's a mentor andadviser.''

SARUMAN (Christopher Lee): Once the head of the Council of the Wise, he has since succumbed to the dark temptations of Sauron's power.

ELVES

These are noble, elegant, magical beings whose time is running out and who seem to possess a bittersweet sense that they are now about to pass into myth. Although they could be slain or die of grief, elves are immortal in that they are not subject to age or disease.

ARWEN (Liv Tyler): She's in love with the mortal man Aragorn, but her father, Elrond, is trying to discourage their romance. Elves, says Tyler, were created by Tolkien to be these angelic spirits, to have the greatest joy and the deepest sorrow. As for her own character, Tyler says, Arwen is willing to sacrifice her immortality to ``spend a short amount of time with Aragorn, and that's something I really responded to because I think it's a classic beautiful idea that we lack in our world today.''

GALADRIEL (Cate Blanchett, left): She's the powerful soul-probing Elf Queen, who has one of the 19 Rings. ``How does one prepare to be an elf?'' asks Blanchett. ``I don't know. But it was fascinating.'' She credits Jackson, whom she calls a ``genius,'' with helping her. ``Peter is utterly focused on the truth of the performance. So unlike being forced to work with ping-pong balls or tennis balls (on a green-screen set), we were always working with another actor, whatever size or shape. It was always about finding 'the elvish truth,' '' she laughs.

LEGOLAS (Orlando Bloom): A keen archer and son of an Elf king, one of the fellowship. ``Elves are like trees grounded and focused from the trunk down but graceful and agile on top,'' says Bloom. ``Tolkien went into great detail about them how they have this superhuman strength and incredible reflex speeds. I kind of saw them as like samurai, like watching Kurosawa's 'Seven Samurai,' and I wanted them to have that otherworldly quality about them.''

ELROND (Hugo Weaving): An Elf of great powers, father to Arwen, his knowledge of the One Ring proves invaluable to the Fellowship.

MORTAL MEN

Man here is a fledgling race just coming into its own.

ARAGORN (Viggo Mortensen, right): Also known as Strider, he is heir to the kingdom of Isildur, but he was raised by Elves. As an adult, he hid his true identity, roaming Middle Earth as a Ranger, fighting evil before joining the Fellowship. He is also in love with the Elf princess Arwen. ``Aragorn is someone of a race that lives to 210,'' says Mortensen. ``As Gandalf says in the book, he is the greatest huntsman and traveler in the world. He probably knows more about the free culture of Middle-Earth than anyone.''

BOROMIR (Sean Bean): A prince of the kingdom Gondor and a member of the Fellowship, he's a valiant warrior who lacks respect for the One Ring's devastating power. Bean says that Boromir, despite being a fighter, is a man of ``sensitivity and vulnerability. He means well, he's trying his best, but he has weaknesses and doubts. He's struggling to repress this overwhelming desire to possess the Ring.''

DWARVES

Short but very tough, they have a strong, ancient sense of justice and an abiding love of all things beautiful. Small in stature, they live to be about 250 years old.

GIMLI (John Rhys-Davies, left): A stout-hearted axe-man who comes to represent the Khazad, the Dwarves of Middle-Earth, as part of the Fellowship.

Other creatures

BLACK RIDERS: Also known as Nazgul or Ringwraiths. Originally, nine men were given the Rings but were corrupted by Sauron. They are neither living nor dead but are cursed to live in the twilight world of Sauron.

ORCS: An evil race of Middle-Earth controlled by Sauron. They don't like sunlight, and they're ugly.

URUK-HAI (right): A strain of Orcs bred by Sauron and used as soldiers. More powerful than Orcs and as tall as men, they do not weaken in sunlight. They're really ugly.

GOLLUM (Andy): Once a Hobbit-like creature, he found the Ring after Sauron lost it in battle. The proximity to the Ring transformed him into a grotesque creature. Gollum eventually loses the Ring to Bilbo. He is only glimpsed in ``Fellowship'' but will play bigger roles in the next two installments.

CAPTION(S):

7 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Elijah Wood

(2 -- color) Cate Blanchett

(3 -- color) FRODO (ELIJAH WOOD) AT RIVENDELL

(4 -- color) John Rhys-Davies

(5 -- color) Ian McKellen

(6 -- color) Viggo Mortensen

(7 -- color) URUK-HAI
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 16, 2001
Words:1594
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